Democracy, the Verb
"Democracy is always a movement of an energized public to make elites responsible - it is at its core and most basic foundation the taking back of one's powers in the face of the misuse of elite power. In this sense, democracy is more a verb than a noun - it is more a dynamic striving and collective movement than a static order or stationary status quo." --Cornel West, Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism, Penguin Books, 2005, p. 68
I have always been struck by the oxymoronic quality to Mexico's powerful PRI party - Partido Revolucionario Institucional. How can a party, cause, or movement be at the same time revolutionary and institutional - dynamic and stagnant? However, pondering West's word, could the same not be said about American democracy, and, for that matter, the Democratic party? The status quo is so often defended in this country by claims that we are "preserving our democracy". In a particularly circular argument, criticism of the administration or the war in Iraq is stifled because it does not properly respect the soldiers who "are defending our democratic institutions". Perhaps the real oxymoron is institutional democracy. Granted, an institutional process is necessary; there is no need to keep re-inventing the wheel. However, the institution should never become more important than the process. The preservation of the government should never be more important than the constitutional safeguards. Questioning, criticsim and dissent should not be considered unpatriotic and the fourth estate should be responsible, informed, widely published and independent both from governmental and market influence.